Large numbers of Britain's 1.5 million students are staying close to home for their education. David Charter analyses HESA's first far-reaching Data Report
The growing trend for students to study in their home region is confirmed by the Higher Education Statistics Agency's 1994 survey - except in East Anglia. Fewer than one in ten Norfolk and Suffolk students can be found at local institutions.
HESA's data for 12 United Kingdom regions also find that while 92 per cent of Scottish students stay in Scotland, only 56 per cent of the Welsh study in Wales.
"While there is no suggestion that students are commuting from home, there are large numbers of students who study in the same region in which they are domiciled," concludes the agency.
"This is true for all regions of the UK except East Anglia. This may be explained by the fact that there are just three higher education institutions to choose from in East Anglia, although it is recognised that others offer teaching provision in the region."
However as HESA chief executive Brian Ramsden explained, it is not his organisation's job to explain this or any of the other trends identified: "Our mission is to inform - we have drawn out interesting points but we have not drawn causal conclusions."
Six out of ten British students are "conventional" full-time undergraduates, with part-time students making up 28 per cent of all those enrolled. A fifth of students are postgraduates.
Other facts higlighted by HESA's report include: * Of full-time undergraduates, 59 per cent have A levels or Scottish Highers as their highest qualification on entry; * A total of 4,900 full-time students have no qualifications on entry; * 94 per cent of part-time first-year undergraduates are over 21; * After the age of 30, a first-year undergraduate is far more likely to be part-time than full-time.
Almost all full-time undergraduates begin their studies in September or October, while part-time students start all year round, many with the Open University. One in five part-timers start during March or April.
DISABILITY Just 3.8 per cent of British higher education students report they have a disability. The proportion is higher among full-time students at 4.3 per cent than part-timers (2.8 per cent), although there are many more students with mobility problems among part-timers.
Diabetes, epilepsy or asthma are the most widely reported disabilities, recorded by 53.8 per cent of full-time and 22 per cent of part-time disabled students.
"It is likely that some institutions collect less detailed information about part-time students than full-time students and thus the figure (for part-time) is possibly an underestimate," says the report.
"Wheelchair users and students with mobility problems form a much higher percentage of part-time disabled students than of full-time disabled students," it adds.
The actual numbers of students involved in the sample of nearly 400,000 include 6,900 with diabetes, epilepsy or asthma, 2,300 with dyslexia, 1,000 with hearing impairment, 900 with mobility difficulties and 600 blind or partially sighted.
Women form the clear majority of students in the areas of education and subjects allied to medicine, which includes nursing. However they make up less than a quarter of students in both computer science and engineering and technology.
HESA's report identifies other predominantly male subject areas as the physical sciences (65 per cent of full-time undergraduates), mathematical sciences (63 per cent) and architecture, building and planning (69 per cent).
Mainly female subjects are librarianship and information science (61 per cent of full-time undergraduates), languages (70 per cent) and creative arts and design (58 per cent). Women form 43 per cent of full-time and 47 per cent of part-time postgraduates, compared to 50 per cent of full-timers and 53 per cent of part-timers.
Malaysians form the biggest group of overseas students.
HESA has also found that while 9 per cent of undergraduates are from overseas, almost a third of all postgraduates come from abroad.
There were 45,500 Asian students enrolled at UK universities and colleges in December 1994, including 13,700 from Malaysia.
European Union students represented four in ten of the 158,200 overseas students, with the largest numbers coming from the Republic of Ireland (12,700), Greece (11,800) and Germany (10,500). Of the non-EU countries represented, Hong Kong has 9,800 students in Britain, with 7,300 from the United States, 6,000 from Singapore and 3,100 from Japan. Engineering and technology attracts the most overseas students.
Black students of Caribbean and African origin are more likely to study part-time and many are older than their white peers, the statistics reveal. They also show that, while most ethnic groups seem well represented, women tend to be missing out, especially among Pakistanis.
Data on ethnicity was collected from 436,900 first-year students, leading HESA to warn it may not be representative. "Non-white ethnic groups seem to be well represented irrespective of age," the report concludes. HESA differentiates bet-ween Indian, Pakistani and black students, the term used to cover Caribbean and African students.
In the 18 to 20 age group, 49.2 per cent of white students are women (they make up 48.7 per cent of the total age group in the 1991 census), 55.5 per cent of black students are women (they make up 50 per cent of their age group). But the comparative figures for women of Indian origin is 46.7 per cent (compared to their census ratio of 49.2 per cent) and for women of Pakistani origin 38.6 per cent (46.9 per cent in the 1991 census).
Business and administrative studies are taken by more undergraduates than any other area of study.
This category among the 19 identified by HESA represents 12 per cent of full-time and 14 per cent of part-time first degrees. And nearly a quarter of part-time postgraduates also take courses in this area. The biggest group of full-time postgraduates, nearly one in five, are on courses in education.
The top choices of full-time undergraduates after business and administrative studies are: combined studies (11.9 per cent); engineering and technology (10.2 per cent); social, economic and political studies (8.4 per cent); creative arts and design (6.9 per cent).